Our Favorite At-Home Water Play Activities

By Kyrie Collins, Julie Dikken, Sarah Hauge, Nicole Hoeper, Debra Jaramillo, Kristin Kindred, Michele Pullo, Christen Reiner, and Melissa Shrader May 20, 2024

Looking for ways to keep your kiddos entertained with water this summer? The Macaroni KID Publishers of Colorado have you covered! We've pulled together our favorite water activities for outdoor summer fun!

Iceberg Excavating
by Julie Dikken

This fun activity is perfect for a hot day or great for an outdoor birthday party activity.

What You Need:
For the iceberg: Plastic tub that will fit in your freezer, plastic toys (army figures, dinosaurs, bugs and butterflies, or whatever you have on hand), ice cubes, and water.

For excavating: Water guns or water bottles, toothbrushes, plastic droppers

What You Do:
Scatter a few plastic toys on the bottom of the plastic tub. Add a layer of ice cubes and about a 1-inch layer of water. Place in the freezer until completely frozen. Repeat until your plastic tub is filled. I like to leave a few toys sticking out the top.

Remove the iceberg from the plastic tub and place it in a kiddie pool or your yard. Have the children begin squirting water around a toy to start excavating. They can also use a toothbrush to help clean away the ice and a plastic dropper to sprinkle water into tighter spaces. Keep working until all toys have been excavated!

Pour and Play for Infants and Toddlers
by Debra Jaramillo

Scooping! Pouring! Dumping! Squeezing! Splashing! The power of cause and effect makes kids think and brings big smiles to little faces.

What You Need:
Dish tub or kiddie pool, measuring cups, funnels, small plastic or bath toys, wooden spoon, clean sponges, or any other items on hand that are water- and baby-safe.

What You Do:
Add water and play items to your dish tub or a kiddie pool. Play with your little one by showing them: how to scoop water and dump it out, squeeze water from stuffed toys or sponges, watch the water pour through the funnel, splash with the wooden spoon, and use your imagination and find new ways to play.

T-Shirt Freeze
by Christen Reiner

Plan ahead for this fun and easy game! Let the kids prep it themselves — they will be so excited to play!

What You Need:
T-shirts (one per person), gallon-size resealable plastic bag (one per person)

What You Do:
Grab a t-shirt that either fits well or is a little too big. Run the shirt under the faucet or dunk it in a bowl or pitcher of water until it is soaked through. Wring out the shirt a bit, but keep some of the water in it! Fold up the shirt and place it in the plastic bag. Zip it up and freeze overnight.

The next day, take the bags outside. Give the starting signal — the person who gets the frozen shirt correctly onto their body first is the winner! For even more fun, freeze a few shirts and play again and again!

Sponge Splash Balls
by Kyrie Collins

What You Need:
Two new sponges, twine, scissors

What You Do:
Cut the sponges lengthwise into quarters. Cut a piece of twine long enough to wrap around the sponges a few times (about 18-24"). Stack the sponges on top of each other (as if they weren't cut) and over the twine, then pull to tighten. Wrap a few times and tie in a knot to secure. Trim the ends of the twine.

And that's it! Once you have at least one splash ball per person, head outside. Douse your splash balls with water from the garden hose or dunk them in a bowl of water. Then it's time for a game of catch or splash ball tag!

Water Balloon Fun
by Nicole Hoeper

What You Need:
Water balloons (I like Bunch O Balloons), water toys (scoops, water balloon bouncers, water sprayers), and a water supply

What You Do:
Fill your water balloons with water. If you have regular water balloons, we suggest having a water sprayer (at your local dollar store) to fill up your balloons. The sprayer makes filling balloons easy with no mess in the house at the sink or running to turn the hose on and off.

Ways to Play:

  • Just give them a toss.
  • Use the scoops to play catch with a friend.
  • Use a water balloon bouncer to bounce the balloons independently or from one person to another.
  • Use your imagination for more fun and games!

Colored Water Bottles
by Kristin Kindred

Kids are so simple when it comes to playing with water; they want to do it with anything they can get their hands on.

What You Need:
Squirt bottles or clean and empty plastic mustard/ketchup bottles and food coloring

What You Do:
Fill the bottles with water and add food coloring to the water to get the color you want. Shake it and mix it well.

Squirt Gun Fun
by Michele Pullo

What You Need:
Squirt guns, several small buckets, water, and KIDS!

What You Do:
I chose squirt guns that look like space guns for something different. Fill your buckets up with water and set them out in your yard or open space with plenty of room in between them. Fill up the squirt guns with water and place one by each bucket. Assign each child a bucket and a squirt gun.

Set some ground rules: keep 6' apart, buckets are "safe" zones, wear masks and gloves if you prefer, and be kind. Then blow a whistle or yell "Ready, Set, Go!" and let the fun begin!

Paint with Water
by Sarah Hauge

What You Need:
Paintbrushes, cups or bowls of water, an outdoor space, and your imagination

What You Do:
Use your different shaped and sized paintbrushes to paint with water all over your outdoor space! 

  • Sample a variety of paintbrushes to explore how they each function differently.
  • Teach letter or shape identification by painting them out on the pavement.
  • Practice those pouring skills by providing a variety of water buckets, canisters, and measuring tools.
  • Encourage creativity by asking what color they would choose to paint various items.

Soap Boat Race
by Melissa Shrader

What You Need
Aluminum foil (heavy-duty recommended), bars of soap (1 per person), toothpicks (1 per person), masking tape (cut into 3" sections), markers, and scissors

What You Do:
To make the track, measure out the length you'd like with aluminum foil. Fold the edges over two times to get rid of the sharp edge. Then fold the foil into a gutter shape so each boat will stay on its track.

Make a flag for your boat. We took a strip of masking tape (colored tape also works well) about 3" long and placed it about halfway up the toothpick, so it overlapped the top. You can leave the flag as is or make it fancy with your scissors by cutting any shape into it that you'd like, then decorate it!

Place your flag into a bar of soap. We found that soap rounded on the bottom goes faster and spins! You can also carve your soap into a boat shape for even more fun if you have older kids. 

Now just put your garden hose at the end of the track, put your boats in, and the race is on!